Oregon is a perfect road trip destination. This state on the northwest coast of the U.S. is part of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon has a lot of unspoiled nature. It is a great place to chase waterfalls, hike mountains, get your feet wet on the beach, eat seafood, and explore charming small towns. If you’re planning an Oregon road trip, let me share some tips to help you prepare to explore this beautiful state.
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What to know when planning your Oregon road trip
Become familiar with the tidal schedule on Oregon’s coast
Be aware of the tidal schedule so you don’t miss out on exploring the tidal pools full of marine life. Some attractions are only accessible during low tide, such as Secret Beach, while others are more spectacular to visit during high tide, such as Thor’s Well. You can’t be everywhere at the best time, so focus on the attractions you’re most interested in.
Beware of businesses closing early
If you like seafood, you’ll be in for a treat, but keep in mind that coastal towns are small. Restaurants close sometimes as early as 8 or 9 pm. If you’re planning on catching sunsets on the beach, grab dinner to go, have a picnic, or eat an early dinner.
Bring extra layers
The temperatures change quickly, and they differ by location. The coast is always colder than the center of the state, sometimes up to 30°F. I recommend packing lots of layers. Depending on the season, bring anything from capris and t-shirts to fleece jackets, a hat, and gloves. For hiking, I recommend hiking boots. Due to changing weather, you are likely to find many muddy trails. For the beach, bring a pair of comfortable sandals. If you plan to get into hot springs, pack a bathing suit – that is, if you plan to wear one. Nudity is to be expected at hot springs.
Make accommodation reservations
You will likely stay around a lot of small towns, especially on the coast. Making reservations ahead of time for your accommodations is key. There is a not a wide selection of hotels. Some coastal towns only have motels. You might also consider Airbnb rentals or campsites. I slept in a campervan at established campsites or wild camping spots. I didn’t have any problems finding places on the spot, but Crater Lake and Cannon Beach tend to be busy destinations, especially in summer months.
Expect moody weather
The weather in Oregon is quite moody. Be prepared to experience rain, fog, and sunshine—sometimes in the same day. Don’t be discouraged by fog, as it tends to move quickly by the coastline and in the mountains, and some amazing views will await you. Bring an umbrella, along with sunscreen and sunglasses because you never know which will come in handy.
Know when to plan your trip
If you plan to visit Mt Hood or Crater Lake, some roads and hiking trails won’t be accessible until July; however, July also marks the beginning of wildfire season. In 2020, wildfires lasted until September, caused a lot of damage, and air quality reached levels too dangerous to be outside. Be aware of wildfires, but don’t be discouraged by them. Wildfires tend to be a common phenomenon, and every year is different.
Have a campfire on the beach
Oregon is one of the states in the U.S. that allows campfires on the beach. There’s lot of driftwood ready to be burned. Have some fun! But make sure to follow the rules for beach campfire safety and extinguish your fire when you’re done.
Note that cell signal can be spotty
You will be driving through parts of Oregon where you will not have any cell signal. Download maps for offline navigation. Check the rest of the article, where I share the apps to guide you in planning your trip.
Apps to help you plan your Oregon road trip
I used several apps to help me plan this trip, both paid and unpaid. Here are the ones I found most helpful.
This trip was my first time using a camper van, and Outdoorsy is an amazing app to help. It’s like Airbnb for campers. Owners list their RVs for rent. The rental comes with insurance and roadside assistance. Thankfully, I did not have to use roadside assistance, but I was assured that it is outstanding. My hosts were amazing, super quick to respond, and gave me some useful tips and recommendations for sightseeing. They even sent me a video on how to use the camper van before I even arrived in Portland. I definitely plan to use Outdoorsy in the future.
Roadtrippers is a great app to help plan your trip. The app helps you create your own custom trip with a map, all attractions of interest, an estimate of the drive time between attractions, and you even get a gas price estimate. Roadtrippers also helps you find accommodation, restaurants, and other nearby attractions. You can add dates and notes to each destination. Free version of Roadtrippers lets you add up to 7 waypoints to the trip. Otherwise, you need to upgrade to Roadtrippers Plus which is the paid version. The fee for the paid version is $29.99 per year.
iOverlander is a free app that was recommended to me to help find campsites. I did not make any campsite reservations ahead of time. I just relied on the app to help find established campsites and wild camping. It worked out just fine! A nice feature is that iOverlander connects you to google maps or maps.me, which came in very handy when I didn’t have signal, particularly maps.me.
Maps.me is free app that lets you download maps and use directions offline. You can download maps by state or, if you have enough space on your phone, you can get the whole U.S. map. Maps.me also offers maps for other countries than the U.S. The app came in very handy, as there were several places in Oregon that had spotty cell service.
If you plan to hike, get All Trails. It helps you find trails. The app comes with pictures and reviews. I found recent reviews very useful in knowing trail conditions before hiking. In addition, most parks have spotty cell service, and All Trails lets you download trail maps, which I found very useful. However, this feature is only available in a paid version. If you hike a lot, it is well worth it. The annual fee for the paid version is $29.99.
I spent two weeks exploring the best of Oregon. I hope these tips will help with planning your Oregon road trip. If you’re looking for ideas of places worth exploring, check out my Oregon travel photo inspiration or 2-week Oregon road trip itinerary. Make sure to leave me questions in the comments of this article if there is anything you’d like to know before you go.